Happy Chinese New Year, Philly!

Beautiful firework pastry from A La Mousse, in celebration of the Chinese New Year!

Every holiday should be celebrated with food!

So, we set out to Chinatown to celebrate – starting with a giant Taiwanese fried (Ninja) chicken and squid from Cheers Cuts:IMG_20180220_120934543

And finishing up with the most amazing Asian-inspired desserts from A La Mousse:

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Happy Year of the Dog!

 

 

And who are these little guys? And, why are they riding chickens?

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https://www.facebook.com/alamoussecafe/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/cheers-cut-philadelphia

American Revolution History & European Fries

While the Museum of the American Revolution isn’t exactly off the beaten path, we wanted to visit before February 19 to view their latest acquisition – a newly discovered watercolor that shows the only eye-witness image of Washington’s war tent.  The war tent itself is the highlight of the museum and has its own dedicated theater, but the watercolor is new and may not always be on exhibit.  The tent has a fascinating story – having been handed down through Martha Washington’s family to her great granddaughter, Martha Custis Lee (wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee), and eventually sold to a collector.  The story of the watercolor is even more amazing: shortly after the museum opened, the chief curator was browsing on-line auctions, when he spotted the watercolor.  The location was miss-labeled and no artist was listed, so the museum was able to purchase the painting for only $13,750.  After conservation and research, the staff at the museum discovered that not only is it the only surviving eye-witness picture of the tent (shown in the painting with a wooden marque in front built to impress the French), but it was painted by Pierre L’Enfant, designer of Washington D.C.. For more information: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/arts/design/washingtons-tent-a-detective-story.html

The museum itself is a great complement to the other Revolutionary War sights around Philadelphia.  Filled with artifacts, hands-on exhibits and videos, it does a good job highlighting some of the lesser known stories of the war, including contributions from free blacks and slaves, women and Native Americans.

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Just down Chestnut Street is a small cafe with the best European-style French fries in the city: European Republic.  Thicker cut and crispier than usual, with a huge variety of sauces, a triple batch (along with a delicious rice pudding from a local bakery) made a great post-museum lunch. Tip: If you aren’t the kind of person who can eat just fries for lunch, they have a great lunch special with: wrap, fries and a drink for $8.

http://www.amrevmuseum.org/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/european-republic-philadelphia

A Rainy Day In Philly: Exploring The Free Library & Polish Home Cooking

I’ve written about the Free Library before (A Library That Houses The Best (Free) Museum In Philly That No One Knows), but there is a lot more to explore than the very cool rare book department – enough to occupy a few rainy -day hours.  Start with the free hour-long building tour that explores the architecture, history and collections of the 19th century building.  After the tour (in addition to actual books), visitors can:

*listen to records and cds

*borrow and play an instrument

*examine the world’s largest lending library of orchestral music

*view fine art prints, photographs, etc. (appointment recommended)

*explore the map collection

*view one of the many rotating exhibits (on view today: Leonard Bernstein memorabilia, photographs of the history of the Ben Franklin Parkway, epistolary novels and homemade art books)

*The museum also offers cooking classes, author talks, theater performances and concerts

We used the pouring rain as an excuse to get in the car and drive 15 minutes to the Port Richmond section of the city.  Home to a large Polish community and “The Dinner House” – where we feasted on sour rye soup, potato pancake with goulash and potato & cheese pierogi… and finished with a cheese danish from a local bakery.

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http://freelibrary.org/

https://www.facebook.com/polishdinnerhouse/

Mummers & Pie

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Every New Year’s Day, I wonder what the heck a “mummer” is – today we found out at the Mummer’s Museum.  This is a small museum (admission was “pay what you wish” on the cold, January day we visited) filled with videos, costumes, memorabilia and best of all… dress-ups with a video to teach the mummer’s strut.  We will definitely return for one of their (free) Thursday evening summer concerts.

Only about a mile walk from the tacky shops and restaurants on South Street, we checked out the new (tasty!) Bahn Mi & Bottles restaurant for Vietnamese street food:

And (best of all) homemade pie from Magpies (see Philly Ice Cream Treats – From Traditional To Trendy To Unusual)  for info on their yummy pie milkshakes):

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Mexican Chocolate & Oatmeal Cookie Pie

http://mummersmuseum.com/

https://www.banhmiandbottles.com/

https://www.iluvmagpie.com/

A Masonic Temple & Mongolian Hot Pot

In the shadow of City Hall stands one of the most elaborately carved and decorated Masonic Temples in the world.  Built in 1837, the interior is a dramatic example of Victorian design.  The hour-long tour shows off 7 of the over-the-top rooms.  In homage to the Mason’s history as stone masons, each room is decorated in a different, historically accurate style (from Egyptian to Gothic to Renaissance) – supplemented with a variety of Masonic symbols:

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Conspiracy theories aside, many of the founding fathers and at least 14 presidents have been Masons, and the museum has some interesting artifacts – including a Masonic apron owned by George Washington and (supposedly) presented to him by the Marquis de Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin’s Masonic sash and a piece of George Washington’s original coffin:

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Since Philly’s Chinatown is just a few blocks walk from the temple, we decided to try one of the latest restaurant trends – Mongolian Hot Pot – from Little Sheep.  We ordered the $12.95 lunch special, which came with a choice of broth (we chose the traditional and the spicy) and a variety of meats and veggies to cook in the broth:

https://pamasonictemple.org/

https://www.littlesheephotpot.com/location/philadelphia-pa

Frankenstein & Falafel

Today’s adventure included an old-school falafel joint, monster books, and a 19th century row house on one of Philly’s prettiest streets.

Trendy falafel restaurants are all over the city, but today we went old school – to the Israeli-owned (closed Friday evenings and Saturdays) – Mama’s Vegetarian.  Great (cheap) falafel with a small, but delicious, pickle bar.

Just a few blocks away, on one of the prettiest streets in the city (Delancey Place), is the Rosenbach Museum & Library.  Owned by one of the most famous rare book dealers of the 20th century, the museum houses an incredible collection of manuscripts, first editions, letters, a royal proclamation, and even the entire Greenwich Village living room of modernist poet Marianne Moore – all visible on the house tour offered hourly.

The current exhibition (through February 11, 2018), “Frankenstein & Dracula: Gothic Monsters, Modern Science,” explores the influence and evolution of literary monsters.  In addition to handwritten pages of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s personal notes for Dracula, the exhibit also has interactives and scientific & medical works from the 19th century to the present.

https://rosenbach.org/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/mamas-vegetarian-philadelphia

P.S. Philly is a great town for book lovers:

The Best Museum In Philly That No One Knows

The Advantages of Wandering: A Medieval Herbal And The Best $10 Lunch In Philadelphia

The Advantages of Wandering: A Medieval Herbal And The Best $10 Lunch In Philadelphia

I’m a planner, so most of our adventures are planned out – after all, we usually have only 4 hours to explore, but sometimes we let fate guide us. Today was one of those days.IMG_20171109_115425677~2Find #1: The Philadelphia Horticultural Society Library.  Who can resist an poster for “Two Herbals: Picturing Nature from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance”?  Not me (although Tobey says that she can… easily). Currently on display at the library are two of their oldest books – a Medieval Herbal (from 1517 – the oldest book in their collection) and a Renaissance Herbal (from 1542). In addition to these, they have a computer showing artwork from other herbals of the period.  As Harry Potter fans, we enjoyed the images of the mandrake plant:

Find #2: The Octopus Food Truck. The long line and delicious smell led us to this unique culinary adventure.  During our 45 minute wait, we had plenty of time to learn the proper protocol (leading to many comparisons on the Yelp site to the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld):

*No ordering.  Gus prepares one meal and that’s what you get.

*No napkins or utensils or bag.  Bring your own or stop by the Starbucks on the corner.

*One meal per person. No exceptions.

*No chit-chat. Unless Gus initiates the conversation.

*Serving starts at 12:00 and continues until mid-afternoon when the food runs out.

There is a reason people come from all over the city and use up their entire lunch hour waiting in line – the food is fantastic.  All prepared (using wood charcoal) while you wait, using the freshest ingredients, each meal usually includes a few falafels and grilled chicken – after that, the menu changes daily.  Our lunch included: char-grilled brussel sprouts, greens, blueberries, honey dew/mint, rice, sauce and a spicy grilled pepper.  We have now been initiated into the club and will join the rest of the fans who happily spend their lunch hour waiting in line for the best $10 lunch in the city. Yum.  Yum. Yum!

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https://phsonline.org/resources/the-phs-mclean-library/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/octopus-falafel-truck-philadelphia?osq=food+cart

A Bridge Walk & A Favorite Old City Restaurant

img_20171102_1110537252.jpgFor a city walk with great views and no traffic, the pedestrian path on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a great option.  Opened in 1926 (with Art Deco architectural details), a round trip walk is almost 3 miles – with views of the Camden and Philadelphia waterfronts and Philadelphia skyline.

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Since we burned off all those calories hiking the bridge – and since the bridge walk ends in Old City, we headed to one of our favorite restaurants, Capofitto, for a favorite Philly meal: arancini (fried risotto balls) and pizza with arugula and prosciutto:

 

Next, we are going to attempt to recreate this delicious meal at home… (Recreating a Restaurant (Capofitto) Meal At Home: Arancini & Pizza With Prosciutto)

http://www.capofittoforno.com/

Eating our Way Through Chinatown, Pt. 3 (Duck)

IMG_20171019_135006710~2Challenging ourselves with new foods is part of the deal.  We’ve seen the ducks hanging in windows throughout Chinatown and this was our week to try.  Along with a bowl of beef chow fun and BBQ pork/soy sauce chicken over noodles, we ordered a side of duck – which arrived chopped on a plate – skin, meat, bones and all. Although everything was tasty, we decided that Hong Kong-style/Cantonese was too bland and sweet for our taste – and, now we can cross duck off the list.

Ting Wong (138 N. 10t Street)

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Philly’s Fantastic Chinatown

img_0340-e1504916762754.jpgFor the past 2 years, Tobey and I have been on a quest to explore the cuisines of  Chinatown.  Although Philadelphia’s Chinatown is just a few blocks long, this has proved never ending (but very enjoyable).  In addition to the diverse cuisines and foods of China (dim sum, hand-drawn noodles, duck, Cantonese, Szechuan, Hong Kong, Fujian), many other Asian cuisines are represented – Burmese, Vietnamese (including banh-mi), Korean, Japanese – plus many trendy and traditional desserts (QQ waffles, Japanese crepes, taro buns, green tea mousse cake).  Just when we start to put a dent in our list, restaurants close and new trends take over.  A few years ago it was soup dumplings, bubble tea, and hand-drawn noodles.  Last year was ramen and rolled ice-cream.  This year, it’s hot pots, Taiwanese fried food and nitrogen-frozen desserts.